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9 Actors Who Got Their Start Saving Steven Spielberg From Drowning At The Public Pool

They might be household names now, but they all had to start somewhere.


1. Gwyneth Paltrow

Paltrow was the lifeguard at the Glendale, CA public pool that Spielberg frequented in the late ’80s, and therefore was on a collision course with destiny. Normally, Spielberg’s trips to this pool consisted of him diving off the diving board, getting out of the pool, diving in again, and continuing this cycle for one to two hours, but one day, Spielberg dove in and immediately began drowning. That’s when Paltrow hopped into action. She saved Spielberg’s life, and to repay her, Spielberg cast her as Wendy in Hook. A star had been made.

2. Robert Downey Jr.

Incredibly, Robert Downey Jr. was only 4 years old when he rescued Steven Spielberg from drowning at the public pool. Downey noticed a man wearing a polo shirt and tuxedo pants lying facedown in the shallow end, and, realizing that this was peculiar, notified a lifeguard, who jumped in and administered CPR to Spielberg. When Spielberg finally came to, he immediately turned to Downey and shouted, “Thanks, kid, you should be in movies, and soon.” All the 23-year-old Spielberg had done by this point was direct one of the segments of the 1969 pilot episode of Night Gallery, but he had planted the seed: Downey appeared in the film Pound within the year.

3. Alan Rickman

Rickman was a 42-year-old lifeguard at a public pool in Teaneck, NJ when he saved Spielberg’s life. The director had started to drown after someone dared him to hold his breath underwater for a full minute. Once Rickman dragged him out, Spielberg said he would reward him by casting him as the villain in a new action movie that he was thinking about stealing. Spielberg ended up failing to steal the film, but he still recommended Rickman to the film’s director, John McTiernan, and six months later, Rickman appeared in movie theaters all around the globe in a little movie called Die Hard.

4. Lupita Nyong’o

Nyong’o was certainly lucky that she happened to be at the public pool on the day Steven Spielberg decided to see what would happen if he jumped in holding a medicine ball. Without her quick thinking, strength, and ability to perform CPR, Nyong’o likely never would have received the thank-you note from the legendary director that told her she should go into acting.


5. Natalie Portman

This Oscar-winning actress got her start in Hollywood when Spielberg got stuck in the waterslide at her local pool and began drowning, due to his being caught in such a way that he was forced to swallow all the water that trickles down the slide. Portman, who was the next person in line and sick of waiting, got a running start and jumped down the slide, dislodging Spielberg. Spielberg then told Gary Oldman, who had been waiting for Spielberg down at the bottom, that Portman should make her debut role in a movie he was filming. A year later, León: The Professional, came out, and there was Portman herself, starring in a supporting role.


6 & 7. Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint


These two Harry Potter stars were at the public pool when they got their big break, as Steven Spielberg was also there and had forgotten to clean the garbage out of his snorkel. As Spielberg began drowning, Radcliffe and Grint’s parents, realizing who was drowning, each told their boy to jump into action. The two, who had previously never met, teamed up to save the life of the drowning director. When they finished removing all the water from his lungs, Spielberg thanked them, addressing them as “Harry Potter” and “Ron Weasley.” A Warner Brothers executive who just happened to be lounging nearby took note.

8. Horatio Sanz

Sanz was just about to leave the public pool when he noticed a motionless Spielberg lying on the side of the pool with only his head submerged in the water.. Sanz ran over and yanked Spielberg’s head out of the water by his hair. Spielberg, thrilled that he didn’t die, told Sanz, “I am going to guess Lorne Michaels’ phone number for you! And when I do, I am going to tell him that you should be on whatever show he is currently running, whether that is Saturday Night Live or something new, like Lorne Michaels Tries To Fly A Helicopter!” And he did just that.

9. Laura Dern

Dern was driving by her local public pool when she saw Steven Spielberg staring at the main entrance. She shouted, “If you go in, you’re going to drown!” and Spielberg shouted back, “You are an actress now.” The rest is history.